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Yesterday I received an e-mail from someone using the pseudonym ‘WinteryKnight, who said:

I was just wondering if you have any recent research publications on experimental biology? I am thinking about writing a blog post comparing you to Michael Behe, and I want to be as fair as possible when I compare your research publications on experimental biology in peer-reviewed journals. Please send me a list of the ones that involve lab experiments, like the Lenski experiments, in an e-mail so I can include and compare it with Behe’s research. I don’t want you to be “Marked Down” unless I find out what you can actually do in the lab.

This sounded a bit like Andrew Schlafly’s demand for Richard Lenski to hand over research data on the evolution of a novel trait in E.coli – although I hasten to add that I’m not in Lenski’s league! (I’m sure all this attention is doing wonders for my blog traffic, though!) In addition, WinteryKnight’s use of the words “Marked Down” made me think he could be another apologist for the Discovery Institute. In any case, I could guess which way this was heading, so I responded:

I don’t think so. I don’t respond favourably to ‘incognito’ requests like this, & I would also expect to be able to view previous posts by the writer to see their approach to the subject.

At which point, WK wrote:

That’s OK, I can use what you have on your web page. Thanks for your reply.

At the time I thought that my response would be quote-mined &/or misrepresented and lo! it has come to pass. (Gosh, I should give up my day job & set up shop as a psychic…) For WinteryKnight hath written… a considerable outpouring of spleen, based on inaccurate &/or sloppy research. I just know this is asking for another quote-mine, but if a student of mine turned out a bit of substandard work like this, their work would indeed be ‘marked down’.

WinteryKnight complains that I don’t appear to have any training in biology. This would be news to those who taught me, including my PhD supervisors at Massey University, and also those who have subsequently hired me to teach – wait for it! - biology. It also suggests a failure to check references, as a simple google search of my name & the phrase ‘PhD Massey’ (from my uni web page) turns up the details of my education. I am indeed a biologist by training (as well as a teacher.) He also complains that I’m not a researcher – before listing a reasonably large number of publications, the majority of which are peer-reviewed. You can’t have it both ways! In addition, he seems unaware that I have also published in the area of teaching evolution in NZ and that I regularly review new biology publications – despite his protestations, I think we can safely assume that I do know what I’m talking about. (By the way, a number of WK’s ‘intelligent design’ references are in the area of cosmology, not evolution. Sorry, WK, but you’d be ‘marked down’ for padding out your references list.)

He also fails in reading comprehension – WK has apparently failed to see my statement (in the comments thread of that original blog post)  that I do encourage discussion of ‘intelligent design’ in classes looking at the nature & philosophy of science. Which is where it belongs. No mechanism, no evidence, special pleading – Not Science.

I would also deduct marks for failing to deliver on what his original brief suggested: Please send me a list of the ones that involve lab experiments, like the Lenski experiments, in an e-mail so I can include and compare it with Behe’s research. Yet I looked in vain for this comparison in WK’s post. Why is that?

Finally, & true to the example of Casey Luskin, it seems that WinteryKnight censors posts to his comments thread. As I said earlier, this is hilariously ironic. So, in the interests of free speech, I attach below comments posted – but not published – at WK’s place and cc’d to me by Grant:

You have contradicted yourself in trying to make out she has no idea what ID is then pointing to references where she has written about ID/creationism. Sloppy, biased reporting. But then what else to expect from someone trying to shore up their beliefs?

Additionally, as she’s not research staff, not it’s meaningful to complain about a lack of ’research’ publications. It wouldn’t have been hard to find that out yourself with a few minutes on google and the university website. You obviously didn’t try.

Her interests are with the school-university interface, as her publications clearly indicate, and those are publications; you can’t pretend they’re not with word games!

’It’s not clear to me that she actually knows any biology at this point.’

Actually, it’s quite obvious she does. You clearly haven’t even tried. In fact, you must have avoided what she wrote in the article that you link to.

’and she refused to give them to me’

Not in the way you’re making out.

& Number8Dave:

What a strange post. Since when was it necessary to be a research biologist to understand evolutionary theory?

I didn’thave time to plough through all the references you copied and pasted, but the first one is an unremarkable piece on echinoderm biochemistry. No mention of Intelligent Design anywhere, though I see it’s partially funded by the Discovery Institute. Presumably the DI aim to quote from this and declare “How could anyone suggest something as complex as this could have arisen by chance?” They, and you, seem incapable of learning that complexity is not something that evolutionary theory has ever had a problem with.

Intelligent Design is not some bold new theory challenging the hidebound evolutionist orthodoxy. It dates back at least as far as William Paley’s Natural Theology in 1802. ID has really not moved beyond Paley in more than 200 years – its proponents still have no mechanism beyond “God did it”, while evolutionary theory has moved ahead in leaps and bounds. We now have a reasonable understanding of how diversity and complexity arise through evolution, although as in any active field there is much still to learn. People such as yourself who reflexively insist that life is too complicated to be natural, and therefore must be supernatural, do nothing but provide amusement and occasional irritation to the rest of us.